created by Glenn Tamashiro

Hello and welcome. This site was developed to keep you informed about the various lessons and activities that are held in our Government/Economics and Honors Government/AP Macroeconomics classes.


HGov: Supreme Court Cases

Some cases begin at the Supreme Court because they fall under its original jurisdiction. However, the vast majority of cases reach the Court only as appeals from lower court decisions.

The main route to the Supreme Court is when a lower court petitions the Court for a writ of certiorari, an order to send up the records on a case for review. When cases come to the Court, the justices and clerks decide which ones are worthy of serious consideration, and the chief justice puts them on a “discuss list” for all the justices to consider. If four of the nine justices agree to accept the case, the Court will do so.

After the Court accepts a case, the lawyers on each side submit a brief. Parties who have an interest in a case’s outcome may also submit a written brief called amicus curiae. The justices listen to oral arguments from lawyers for each side of each case.

The Court then recesses and considers arguments in these cases. A majority of justices must be in agreement to decide a case.

The Court issues one of four types of written opinions, which are as important as the decision itself. An opinion may be unanimous. A majority opinion expresses the view of the majority of justices. A justice who agrees with the majority’s decision but for a different reason may write a concurring opinion. A dissenting opinion is the opinion of justices on the losing side in a case.

Econ: Fiscal and Monetary Policies Review 3

The federal government and policymakers use fiscal policy to stimulate or slow down the economy.

  • Expansionary fiscal policy tools: increased government spending, tax cuts
  • Contractionary fiscal policy tools: decreased government spending, tax increases Automatic stabilizers can also serve to expand or contract the economy, because they increase or decrease overall demand.

The Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to stabilize the economy by managing the growth of the money supply and interest rates.

  • An easy-money policy is an expansionary monetary policy that speeds the growth of the money supply to prevent recession.
  • A tight-money policy is a contractionary monetary policy that slows the growth of the money supply to prevent inflation.

The Federal Reserve’s most common policy tool is open-market operations, or the buying and selling of government securities. Through open-market operations, the Fed can target the federal funds rate. Other policy tools include the power to establish bank reserve requirements and the discount rate.

Chapter 14 Quiz – Tuesday 12/6

HGov: Judicial System Structure 2

Ninety-four district courts occupy the lowest level in the federal judiciary. These ninety-four courts include 89 federal court districts throughout the country, with at least one district in each state. The five additional district courts are located in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and three other U.S. territories. Each district court is a trial court with original jurisdiction in its region. District courts are where most cases in the federal system begin. In the past, civil cases dominated district court caseloads. Increasingly, criminal cases are crowding the dockets of these courts, with drug violations leading the way. District court cases are tried before a jury, unless a defendant waives that right. In such cases, the judge decides the outcome of the case in what is known as a bench trial.

Thirteen appellate courts occupy the second level of the federal judiciary. These midlevel courts are known as U.S. courts of appeals. Only a fraction of the cases decided in district courts are reviewed by appeals courts. Of these, an even smaller number get heard by the Supreme Court. Of the 13 appeals courts, one deals with cases arising in Washington, D.C. Another 11 review cases in circuits made up of several states. In 1982, Congress added the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to the judicial system. This 13th appeals court reviews cases nationwide that involve special subjects, such as veterans’ benefits and trade issues. The judges who staff appeals courts sit in panels of three to hear cases. Their primary job is to review district court cases to determine whether the district judge made an error in applying the law in that one trial. However, sometimes their decisions have a broader application than the specific case before them.

From time to time, Congress has established special federal courts to deal with specific categories of cases. Staffing these courts are judges expert in a particular area, such as tax or trade law. These special courts include both lower and appeals courts. During times of war, the United States has also set up military tribunals to try members of enemy forces. A military tribunal is a court in which officers from the armed forces serve as both judge and jury. In 2006, Congress authorized the creation of military tribunals to try noncitizens accused of committing acts of terrorism against the United States.

1) Read Chapter 14 Federal Judicial System

Econ: Fiscal and Monetary Policies Review

Fiscal policy is carried out by Congress and the President. The two main instruments of discretionary fiscal policy are government expenditures and taxes. The government collects taxes in order to finance expenditures on a number of public goods and services such as highways and national defense. Expansionary fiscal policy used to combat a recession is defined as an increase in government expenditures, a decrease in taxes, or both increase in government expenditures and decrease in taxes, that causes the government’s budget deficit to increase and its budget surplus to decrease. Contractionary fiscal policy used to combat inflation is defined as a decrease in government expenditures, an increase in taxes, or a decrease in government expenditures and an increase in taxes, which causes the government’s budget deficit to decrease and its budget surplus to increase.

The Fed has a number of monetary tools available to change the money supply and interest rates to affect real output, employment, and price levels. Open market operations are the most frequently used tool of monetary policy because of their flexibility and immediate effects. Open market operations are the Fed’s purchases and sales of government bonds with member banks and the public. The Fed increases the money supply when it buys bonds, and it reduces the money supply when it sells bonds. The reserve requirement is the most powerful tool of monetary policy, so it is only rarely used. A change in the percentage of deposits the banks must hold in reserve directly impacts the bank’s ability to increase loans and, therefore, the money multiplier. If the Fed increases the reserve requirement, banks cannot loan as much and the money supply falls. A reduction in the reserve requirement increases the potential growth of the money supply. A third important tool of monetary policy is the discount rate, which is the interest rate the Fed charges member banks for loans. A reduction in the discount rate encourages banks to borrow from the Fed and, in turn, increase loans to their customers. As a result, the money supply increases. An increase in the discount rate discourages banks from borrowing from the Fed, reducing loans and the money supply.

HGov: Judicial System Structure 1

When Congress enacted the Judiciary Act of 1789, it created a dual court system in the United States. The federal judicial system was set up alongside the state judicial systems. For the most part, the two systems operate independently of one another, but they can overlap.

One way to sort out what gets tried where in this dual system is to look at each court’s jurisdiction, or its authority to enforce laws. State courts have jurisdiction over cases arising under state law. Federal courts are generally limited to cases involving federal law or the Constitution. Within each system, jurisdiction is limited by three factors: level in the court hierarchy, geographic reach, and type of case.

Each level within the hierarchy of the state or federal court system has a set of responsibilities. Trial courts, at the bottom of the hierarchy, generally have original jurisdiction. This means they have the authority to hear a case for the first time. Moving up the hierarchy, appeals courts have appellate jurisdiction. This means they have the authority to review decisions made in lower courts. Appeals courts do not second-guess jury decisions by reviewing the facts in a case. Instead, their focus is on whether the trial in the lower court was carried out in a fair manner, with no errors of law. An error of law is a mistake made by a judge in applying the law to a specific case.

With the exception of the Supreme Court, courts hear cases that arise within certain geographic boundaries. Within a state judicial system, the geographic jurisdiction of a trial court is usually limited to the city or county in which that court operates. In the federal system, trial court districts are larger. The geographic reach of appellate courts is greater than that of trial courts. Most states have regional appeals courts and a state supreme court. The federal system has 13 appellate courts. The U.S. Supreme Court accepts cases from anywhere in the United States and its territories.

A case’s subject matter also determines where it will be tried. At both the state and the federal levels, the typical trial court has general jurisdiction. This means the court can hear cases covering a variety of subjects. Some courts, however, have limited jurisdiction. This means they specialize in certain kinds of cases. Traffic courts deal only with traffic violations. Bankruptcy courts only hear cases involving bankruptcy issues. Juvenile courts work only with young offenders.

State courts are the workhorses of the judicial system, handling several million cases a year. Nearly half of these cases were traffic related. In contrast, the entire federal system hears fewer cases each year than do the courts of a medium-size state. State court systems vary in their structures. However, most states have four general levels of courts: trial courts of limited jurisdiction, trial courts of general jurisdiction, intermediate appellate courts, and courts of last resort.

Trial courts of limited jurisdiction are local courts that specialize in relatively minor criminal offenses or civil disputes handle most of the cases filed each year. They are known as justice-of-the-peace courts, magistrate courts, municipal courts, city courts, county courts, traffic courts, or small-claims courts, depending on the state and the types of cases they hear. Their hearings are generally informal and do not involve jury trials. Cases heard in these courts may be appealed to trial courts.

Trial courts of general jurisdiction are general trial courts that handle most serious criminal cases and major civil disputes. They are often called superior, district, or circuit courts. In rural areas, general trial court judges may have to travel within a large circuit to try cases. In urban areas, general trial court judges may specialize in criminal, family, juvenile, civil, or other types of cases.

Intermediate appellate courts or intermediate courts of appeals hear appeals from general trial courts. Though the structure varies from state to state, most state appeals courts employ three-judge panels to hear and decide cases.

Courts of last resort are the appeals court at the top of the state system which varies from state to state. The most common name is state supreme court. Most often, these courts of last resort convene in the state’s capital. Their jurisdiction includes all matters of state law. Once a state supreme court decides a case, the only avenue of appeal left is the U.S. Supreme Court. However, such appeals are limited to cases that present a constitutional issue, which is a highly unlikely occurrence.

1) Read Chapter 14 Federal Judicial System

Econ: Chapter 14 Review


Chapter 14 review:
unemployment, inflation, recession, fiscal policy, government spending, budget, taxes, automatic stabilizers, income taxes, unemployment compensation, monetary policy, open market operation, discount rate, reserve requirement, buying government securities, selling government securities, recognition lag, operational lag, Federal Reserve, Board of Governors, District Reserve Banks Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).


HGov: Chapter 11 Review




Chapter 11 Review


Congressional membership, Congressional leadership, Congressional committees, how a bill becomes law process.